Proposed law changes will benefit anti-social tenants - property expert

A proposed amendment to tenancy legislation will give anti-social tenants greater security to the detriment of "good renters," says a property expert.

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill, which the Government plans to push through under urgency this week, proposes that landlords must have proof of three examples of anti-social behaviour in a 90-day period before a tenant can be evicted. 

Sharon Cullwick, the executive officer of New Zealand Property Investors Federation, says the amendment will benefit disruptive tenants at the expense of "good" renters.

"Let's say you've got a block of eight flats and one tenant is disruptive. That tenant under the new legislation has security of tenure - but all the other seven tenants will keep moving because of the disruptive tenant. It doesn't help anyone," Cullwick said. 

"[Tenants] may be able to get more security of tenure, but it will be the antisocial, disruptive tenants... they're the ones who will have the security.

"It will be the good tenants who will have to keep shifting because where they're living won't be a safe place to live. You'll get slum areas in cities because of this."

Following its first reading in February, the select committee suggested a number of changes to the Bill regarding eviction. If it passes with these changes, landlords wishing to use anti-social behaviour as grounds to evict a tenant would need to issue written warnings on three occasions, and apply to the Tenancy Tribunal within 28 days of the third incident.

Currently landlords can evict a tenant following just one example of anti-social behaviour. 

"To do that, means we need to involve the neighbours. We also need to involve maybe noise control, maybe police - anyone else that can help us get the evidence," Cullwick said.

"There are provisions that you can get them out if they do something quite severe, but most cases you wouldn't be able to get them out."

Cullwick also worries that as the details of Tenancy Tribunal cases are kept private, anti-social tenants could make "quite a good living" out of moving from rental to rental - without landlords being aware of their past indiscretions.

"Because the fees and penalties for landlords will be huge, you could find tenants who are professionals and move into different flats, take the landlord to task, receive money for that, move to another house, do exactly the same and carry on that process," she warned.

Man is handing a house key to a other man in the shape of the house.
Photo credit: File

'Makes the housing crisis worse'

There may be an exodus of landlords if the legislation passes, Cullwick says, which presents its own set of consequences. The Federation predicts about 20 percent of New Zealand's landlords will leave the industry if the Bill passes, resulting in reduced numbers of available rental properties and more families applying for emergency housing. 

"First-home buyers come in - but what happens is there's less people in a first-home buyer's property then what there is in a rental property, so you still need twice as many houses," she explained.

"It just makes the housing crisis worse."

On Monday, a property commentator claimed the Government is the most "anti-landlord" in New Zealand's history, despite frequent reports of substandard housing and rising rents. 

When questioned by reporters on Tuesday, National leader Judith Collins expressed the same sentiment.

"This has got to a really weird situation where the current Government came in bashing landlords - we've ended up with a situation where fewer people want to be landlords now. That means there's fewer houses for people to actually rent and the rents have gone up," she said.

"We need to stop bashing sectors of society - it doesn't help anyone and it certainly hasn't helped renters."

Opposition leader Judith Collins said the Government has "bashed" landlords.
Opposition leader Judith Collins said the Government has "bashed" landlords. Photo credit: Getty

When also questioned on Tuesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she believes the vast majority of New Zealand's landlords will be willing to comply with the legislation changes - should the Bill pass in its current form.

Other changes proposed in the Bill considered to favour tenants include:

 

  • landlords will not be able to evict a tenant without a reason, instead requiring "specific grounds" specified in law
  • rent will only be allowed to go up once a year (currently every 180 days)
  • the notice periods landlords have to give to evict tenants if they need the property for themselves, an employee or family member will rise from 42 days to 63. The new tenant will also have to move in within 90 days to prove it was a "genuine" need
  • landlords with six or more tenancies will be hit with higher infringement fees and penalties, with penalties going up overall
  • landlords will have to provide details of how the property meets the Government's healthy homes standards within 21 days, if a tenant requests it.